Sunday, June 26, 2011

Our Life In Pictures

     Where, oh, where has June gone?

     There could be pictures of many house and lawn projects . . . or of piles and piles of laundry from when our washing machine broke down and we were forced to go to the local "Scrub Pub" . . . or of a garden where everything seems to be flourishing EXCEPT the section where I've planted beans and beets TWICE and still aren't coming up through the ground.  So frustrating! 

     But we'll just share the fun stuff . . .

Two dance recital weekends for Kelsey

Haley's week of summer camp with her cousin Karson

Kelsey's been going to swim practice nearly every weekday and goes on a run
with her cousin Shanda once in a while.

Heath is driving again!!!  Yeah!

Five-day trip to Atlanta, Georgia, for the Primerica convention in the Georgia Dome!
So proud of Harris for placing 7th in the nation in the long-term care category, which earned us a trip across stage in front of 40,000 people to claim our trophy!

Heath was sent a $100 gift card after he returned a lost cell phone to someone, so we were able to enjoy Father's Day at Biaggi's!  That was much better than eating pizza in the hospital room for Mother's Day!

Keaton's piano recital

College orientation weekend for Haley and me 
And that's where June 2011 went!  July, here we come!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

P.S. Day of Freedom, Part 2

     Shortly after posting the other blog entry tonight, Harris came home and told me that the nurse called him today to tell him that the pathology report came back negative for any precancerous (Barrett's) tissue in his esophageal area!!!  What a HUGE relief!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Day of Freedom!

     Six months ago on a cold December night, my guys were in a Primerica office, just like they found themselves together in tonight, when I got that horrific phone call that Heath had just had a seizure and that I needed to make my way to him.  I remember it as though it were yesterday . . . the frantic rush to get our office locked up, the dark detoured drive through unfamiliar streets while talking on my phone to gather information, the pacing at the emergency room waiting for him to arrive via ambulance, the stoned look upon his arrival, the frustration that all of us felt that he'd had a second seizure, the stark realization that we about lost our son that night, and then the assurance that God was in it, even though it was all horrible.  Not a day goes by without wondering if and when another one will happen . . . without being a mother hen and encouraging him to get enough sleep and making sure he's taking his medication and following doctor's orders . . . without thinking about when and where he needs to be and making sure he has all the rides he needs . . . without constant prayers of thanks and continual prayers for protection and safety.  He hasn't been driving since that first seizure on September 22, 2010, and today is finally his day of freedom!  We are so happy for him to finally have his life back, and I'll admit that it was great fun to come up with a list of errands that he could run for me today! 

     Will I continue to worry and stress and pray over him, especially in light of the fact that that tumor in his brain still needs to be monitored?  Of course!  In fact, now that he's able to be on the road again, my anxiety level may actually increase, but we're just going to keep right on praying that he will remain seizure free forever and that the tumor is shrinking.  We'll go check on that in another six months if all goes as planned, and if we can make it that long without further complications, that will be a really good sign that things are going well. 

     In other medical news, Harris went in for his repeat upper endoscopy on Monday morning, and we are pleased to report that his esophageal ulcers were gone!  He's been on medication and watching his diet for a couple months with that goal in mind, so that was really good news.  The tissue underneath their location was red, so a biopsy was still taken to check on whether or not there is any precancerous tissue in the area, but the doctor sounded hopeful that all will be okay, and we're just waiting for the pathology report.  Other than that, Harris is feeling back to normal and is working again at a good pace, so we're ready to enjoy the summer months and give his colon plenty of time to heal before the next surgery. 

     Haley's gone to church camp for the week.  She had to miss it last year because of her trip to Africa, so she was really excited to have one final chance to hang out with her youth group friends and was looking forward to the spiritual renewal that always occurs at camp. 

     Kelsey had to make a tough choice between going to church camp or staying home so she could perform in her final year-end dance recital on Saturday that she's worked hard for all year long.  Now that her studio is closing down after this season, it will probably be her last recital ever, so she made a good choice.  She's been so busy dancing, running, and swimming, and we're just in awe of her energy level. 

     Keaton . . . well, he's keeping himself busy in the kitchen having an intense war with his Army guys at the moment, but since we are home alone tonight, he asked if we could watch a movie together and hang out.  There are a million other things I could spend my time doing, but I'm thinking that a little date night with my youngest is in order.  Life has had a way of teaching me to savor every moment with my family, so if you'll excuse me now, there is a cute little freckle-faced blond awaiting my attention . . .

     Good night, folks!

Friday, June 3, 2011


     (The majority of this was written the morning after Haley's party, but new chaos started happening about three hours later, and therefore, this got pushed to the back burner.)

     It's quiet.  It's peaceful.  And for the first time in a very long time, I don't feel the pressure of having to get up and make something happen today.  Oh, there are things to do, of course, but the pressure to be ready for a graduation party on May 30 is gone!  Gone!!!  Can I hear an amen from other mothers of graduates?  Unless you've been in those motherly shoes, I'm fairly comfortable that you might not quite "get" it.  Not only are you dealing with all the emotions and decisions that go along with raising your child in what may be his or her final year of their life under your roof, but then you add this enormous pressure to somehow throw together a very special party at the end to celebrate that precious life.  Somehow you want everything to be perfect:  the house, the yard, the food, the invitations, the guest list, the decorations, the seating, the weather, the atmosphere.  Some things are way beyond your control, and you just have to deal with it, but other things are totally up to you, and if you mess it up, you have no one to blame but yourself.  All the little details need to be thought about from where people will put their garbage to making sure there are forks and spoons available at all times to rounding up extra chairs and making sure hot foods are hot and cold things are cold.  You have absolutely NO IDEA how many people might show up, so you have to plan enough food to not run out, but you don't want to end up with tons extra.  The details are so exhausting that you kind of even give up making lists because even that can be overwhelming.  I mean, when you're running around like a crazy woman at the last minute and you find a pile of extra tablecloths that need to be put away that are just laying in your living room, who's going to think of putting something like that on your list?  "Make sure the tops of the Dorito bags are cut open."  "Stock the bathroom with toilet paper."  Seriously, that was one of those things that was on my mind but never got done, so either we just had enough or someone made work of finding more from another bathroom!  I apologize if anyone found themselves in a predicament! 

     It's all those little things that just keep building up in your mind, and you find yourself in this vicious cycle of rolling things over and over and over.  Your family thinks you're a little nuts and extra crabby and overly obsessive, but you just get frustrated because you don't understand why they don't see that that pile of shoes by the front door must be put somewhere and that the floor underneath them needs to be swept.  You wonder why on earth they don't see the pile of dishes on the counter and just do them so you don't even have to ask them to do so.  You just know that it all has to come together by a certain time on a certain day, and if it doesn't, you'll have the one party that everyone comes to and walks away and says, "Wow, what were they thinking?  That was a total disaster!  They didn't have any food to eat or a basket to put cards in or any pictures to look at.  And did you see how messy their house was or how badly they should have mown their lawn before we came?"  I mean, really!  You know in your heart that it won't all end up absolutely perfect and that no one will really truly care if your windows didn't get cleaned (mine didn't, by the way), but somehow there is just this level of expectation that you have of yourself and your family to pull it all together for this one big event. 

     At one point Haley and I were in a little tiff over something, and she was wondering why on earth we were going to so much trouble.  We ended up kind of joking around about it all, and I finally said to her, "Well, if you'd like me to just buy a big bag of bubble gum, throw it on a table in the middle of the garage, and call it a party, we could certainly do that, but I think we'd look pretty funny to most people who come!"  I think she got it.  We were able to laugh a little at that point, and I think her level of commitment to helping me went up a few notches. 

     Finally, the big graduation weekend was here.  Haley and her friends had all very strategically put together a plan of when their parties would be so that none of them overlapped.  We first attended a retirement party on Friday night, but once we were finished there, the grad parties began, and it was quite the party-hopping circuit.  In 48 hours' time, Harris, Kelsey, and I made it to 11 parties, and we had the graduation ceremony, church, and a special visit from out-of-town friends thrown in there too.  Haley and her friends hit as many as 12 parties in just one day, and I have no idea how many more they went to on the other days.  Heath and Keaton went to a few here and there as well.  Every single one was unique and different, and we had so much fun.  One of Haley's friends is Indian, so we experienced some very tasty but very spicy food there, and unfortunately, Harris paid for that all weekend.  We enjoyed a carnival style party, a "dessert by twilight" theme, and everything in between.  It was while sitting in the actual graduation ceremony on Saturday morning that I had to make the decision to just enjoy each party and not give way to worrying about being outdone in some way.  Our party would be our style, and as long as Haley felt honored and loved, that was all that was important to me. 

     Sunday night the final frenzy of activity officially kicked in, and this family pulled together and helped out in so many ways.  Keaton took it upon himself to sleep for the family.  He fell asleep reading in his bed at 7:30 p.m. already and slept till 9:30 the next morning!  We've always known our family is probably not real normal, but we verified that when we found ourselves grilling a package of brats at 1:00 in the morning.  There was still much to be done, and eventually Haley and I were the last two to head to bed at 4:45 a.m.  All we could do at that point was pray for strength for the day ahead, but we were just glad to be left with the final last-minute kind of stuff for Monday. 

     Even though my alarm was set for later, I woke up on my own at 7:45 and knew that it was time to just get up and get going.  It was a countdown till 4 p.m., and the clock was ticking.  Our parents all arrived in town around noon, so we grilled some burgers and hot dogs, warmed up a can of beans, cut up some fresh strawberries, opened a bag of chips, and enjoyed a fun family Memorial Day meal around the kitchen table.  Once lunch was done, I put our moms to work in the kitchen, and my dad went to help Harris in the garage.  There is no way we could have done it without their help!  Other out-of-town family started arriving at 3:30, and by about 4:15, I was finally able to just breathe a huge sigh of relief and knew that I just needed to relax and enjoy the next few hours.  Friends and family poured in, lots of good conversation was had, food was consumed, and Haley was honored and loved, just as she should be.  Steph, Jenny, and Kelsey were my appointed gals for making sure things were replenished, and Kelsey captured the evening with my camera around her neck.  In typical Westerkamp style, we gave the neighbors something to talk about when a policeman showed up at the party, complete with sirens, but hopefully they were peering through their windows soon enough to see Haley give the officer a great big hug!  Her friend's dad was on duty, so she had asked him to come by like that, and she was quite pleased to see him and get the chance to crawl in the back of a squad car just for fun. 

    The whole evening passed by quickly, and memories were made.  Lots of special friends and family members showed up to give hugs and celebrate Haley's life.  It was a wonderful evening, and I just can't thank everyone enough for all their help for the party, for coming, for the cards and gifts that were given, and for all the support Haley's been given over the years.  She's planning on college in the fall but continues to remain open to God's calling on her life.  Her real passion involves all those orphans and child soldiers over in Africa, so if and when the opportunity arises, she may find her way back there someday.  In the meantime, she'll just keep trusting the Lord to guide her steps.  What more could these parents possibly ask for?